Leicester Square is about to unveil a £15.3m* new look which will firmly cement its place as the leading premiere location for the UK cinema industry - while offering more space and a stylish setting for Londoners to enjoy this world famous spot.
The new-look square will be opened by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and Cllr Robert Davis, Deputy Leader of Westminster City Council at an evening event held on Wednesday 23 May.
It marks the start of a major five-day programme of events celebrating the entertainment industry with highlights including:
• A red carpet movie premiere of independent British film Tortoise in Love
• A movie quiz with top prizes, hosted by celebrity presenter Alex Zane
• Meet and greet with characters from Ice Age 4, Madagascar 3 and Top Cat
• Showcase performances from MAMMA MIA! & Chicago
• An Alfred Hitchcock movie presentation by the British Film Institute
The transformation of Leicester Square forms part of Westminster Council’s ambitious programme of investment in the city to improve London’s public spaces, promote tourism and foster greater opportunities for business and growth.
Leicester Square currently has the highest footfall in Europe, with over 240,000 people passing through the area daily.
The redevelopment works have played a key role in attracting major investment in the area, with international companies such as the W London hotel and American confectionary giant M&M’s World® London choosing Leicester Square for their flagship establishments.
The Square’s distinctive new design by architects Burns + Nice features more than 12,000 square metres of new granite paving across the square, its gardens and side streets to create a coherent new look.
Outside the perimeter of the existing square there is a new white granite ribbon which will create an extra tier of seating for Londoners to stop and enjoy the setting.
Stunning stainless steel railings and gates create visual experience and interest.
The mirrored surface of the railings is designed to reflect grass areas and give the overall feel of open access.
A brand new water feature which uses recycled water to send jets two metres into the air surrounds the central Shakespeare statue, a fountain which is itself a listed monument.
All trees in Leicester Square are now fitted with uplighters to create an attractive appearance and also ensure users feel safe at night.
Hidden away below ground is renewed infrastructure to support the needs and technologies of today.
Power access points will eliminate the need for bulky, noisy generators for special events in the square. Brand new super-loos with child-facilities will provide for comfort-breaks.
The redevelopment of Leicester Square is one of the largest public building projects recently undertaken in Westminster and has taken 17 months to complete.
It marks the most comprehensive overhaul of Leicester Square since major works were carried out in 1992, and addresses the extensive wear and tear that had set in due to the sheer numbers passing through.
Leicester Square is a flagship scheme in the Mayor’s Great Outdoors programme, with significant investment having been provided by Transport for London towards this and other notable projects already complete in advance of the 2012 Games, including the removal of the one-way system on Piccadilly and its surrounding streets and the Oxford Circus diagonal crossing, all of which will provide a legacy to be enjoyed by everyone visiting London’s West End.
Cllr Robert Davis, Westminster City Council’s Deputy Leader said: “Leicester Square has long been an international destination for red-carpet film premieres as well as a central meeting place for people visiting the West End’s wealth of theatre, restaurants and bars.
“This ambitious regeneration project has breathed new life into the square and has given it a vibrant new feel which is more in-keeping with its international reputation.
Central London deserves a state-of-the-art cultural destination, particularly in this Olympic year, and we hope Londoners and visitors alike will be impressed with the results.”
The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: “Today we are rolling out the red carpet for the revamped Leicester Square, which is not only a beacon for world premieres and stars of the silver screen, but also shows how investment can generate jobs and new opportunities for Londoners.
“This fantastic makeover is an integral part of the legacy that London 2012 will bring, helping to rid the square of the blight of anti-social behaviour and creating a must-see destination for the thousands of people who visit each day."
Ben Plowden, Director of Planning for Surface Transport at Transport for London (TfL), said: “The regeneration of Leicester Square has helped transform the heart of the West End and created a stunning space, ready to host millions of additional visitors to London for the Diamond Jubilee celebrations and the 2012 Games.
All of the elements that have been used, from the beautiful new paving to the new decorative lighting have created a fantastic, welcoming environment which will ensure the West End continues to be the number one place for international visitors and investment.”
Sarah Porter, CEO of Heart of London Business Alliance, said: “We’re delighted to unveil Leicester Square’s dazzling new look with its restaurants, alfresco, cinemas and casinos making it one of the UK’s ultimate entertainment destinations.
The unique collaborative approach has ensured that the vision has been fulfilled and given London’s West End a Square like nowhere else”
Speaking on behalf of Film Distributors’ Association, which has devised and delivered the five-day relaunch event with Westminster City Council, FDA President Lord Puttnam of Queensgate CBE said: “I couldn’t be more delighted than to have Leicester Square open again and looking better than ever.
It continues to offer the biggest and best platform from which to launch a movie, and I’d like to think that many of the world’s most glamorously exciting and accessible film premieres will be presented in the heart of the West End for years to come.”
Q: Why was a programme of refurbishment undertaken in Leicester Square?
A: Leicester Square has historically been home to the hotel and entertainment industry since the 19th century, but is renowned as being home to Britain’s cinema industry.
The square is the prime location in London for major film premieres, and has seen the likes of the Harry Potter and James Bond film series.
However, over time, the Square suffered from wear and tear and became in need of an overhaul.
In December 2010, Westminster Council started a programme of works to transform the Square into a new ‘go to’ international space for the city – a place to eat, meet, dwell, rest and shop, and home to some of the world’s top hotels, including the new W London.
The premiere of Leicester Square in May is an opportunity to celebrate its cinematic history and reaffirm the location’s status as the established home of British cinema.
Q: *What was the cost of the refurbishment?
A: The refurbishment works have cost £15.3m in total.
Q: How was the refurbishment funded?
A: Westminster City Council contributed £8m towards the redevelopment, the Mayor of London’s office contributed £1.7 m, Transport for London £2.8m and four property owners – Soho Estates, Gascoyne Holdings, Radisson Blu (corr) and Old Park Lane - contributed a total of £2.8m.
Q: Who are the major partners involved in the redevelopment of the square?
A: The major partners are Westminster City Council, Transport for London, the Mayor of London and Heart of London Business Alliance, whose members make up the Business Improvement District for the Leicester Square area.
Q: What works were undertaken to Leicester Square?
A: The following list highlights the works undertaken to redevelop the Leicester Square site:
New paving for the Square, gardens and side streets
• State of the art lighting
• 200m long white granite seating design
• New railings and gates
• Gardens re-landscaped around the listed Shakespeare Statue and fountain
• Below ground, extensive new cabling and technology will enable bigger, higher-tech film premieres with multiple screens, light shows and other spectacular features
• Refurbishment of the Square's below ground toilets
• New signage to help visitors find their way about, incorporating the Legible London way finding scheme
Q: What does Westminster Council hope to achieve as part of the redevelopment works?
A: The council is keen for the new square to form a ‘go-to’ location for Londoners, visitors, and businesses, creating a central hub for people to meet and eat.
It will also be positioned as the world-class location for hotels and international film premieres, given that the location has the largest capacity for premieres available globally.
Leicester Square is an attractive area for businesses to invest in - for example, the W Hotel chose Leicester Square as the location for their first flagship hotel in the UK because of the programme of refurbishment.
The council wanted to complete these essential works before the Olympics to ensure that the area was at its best for the 2012 year and beyond.
The refurbishment will allow Leicester Square to compete internationally with other entertainment destinations and the new infrastructure means the Square can now accommodate events and premieres of different sizes while letting the rest of the Square operate as normal.
Q: What are some examples of how the Leicester Square redevelopment will boost business around the square and the surrounding West End?
A: The redevelopment has already attracted new business investment to the square. In addition to the W London , the new M&Ms World also chose Leicester Square based on the capital investment, local and huge footfall (250,000 people a day, which is the largest in Europe).
A new Hippodrome mega casino is also due to open in June following the multi-million pound investment.
Q: How many people were involved in the square redevelopment?
A: A team of 180 was on site at the height of the works, but the entire workforce – including council workers, contractors, sub-contractors and design teams – amounted to 400 people.
Q: What companies and organisations were involved in the redevelopment works, such as the architects and lighting specialists?
A: Westminster Council has worked with architectural firm Burns + Nice as part of the development works, and was advised by the Film Distributors’ Association, who liaised with individual film distribution companies on how to enhance future film premieres in the square.
Much in the new Square is bespoke and will not be found anywhere else in the world.